The Colombian people have narrowly rejected a peace deal that would have ended a 52-year war with the FARC guerillas. The shocking result means that the peace deal that took four years to negotiate will end in nothing. As was the case before the Brexit vote, most polls in Colombia predicted that the ‘Yes’ vote (which would allow the peace deal to be officially implemented) would win by a comfortable margin. Colombia’s president Juan Manuel Santos even said that he didn’t have a plan B if the No vote would win and that the consequences for the country’s future relations with the FARC would be uncertain. The No vote ended up winning 50.24% of the votes, defeating the 49.76% that the Yes camp received.
The FARC (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia/ Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) are Colombia’s largest rebel group. It was founded in 1964 as a peasant uprising for land reform but has since grown into a guerrilla insurgency which has been funded through kidnappings, extortion, and the drug trade. The Colombian government estimates that the FARC has between 6,000 and 7,000 active fighters who are led by the head of the organization Rodrigo Londono Echeverri, better known as Timochenko. Over 220,000 people have died since the Colombian government started fighting the FARC and many saw this deal as an opportunity to finally bring an end to a conflict that has gone on for far too long.
The Colombian government and the FARC had signed a peace deal last week in the presence of U.N secretary general Ban Ki-moon, U.S Secretary of State John Kerry and a dozen Latin American leaders. However, the Colombian people had to vote in a referendum on Sunday to make the deal official. Just like what happened in Britain after the Brexit vote, buy tetracycline usa many in Colombia felt deeply disappointed and shocked at the result. So why did the majority (albeit a very tiny majority) vote to reject the peace agreement?
One of the most vocal opponents of the deal and the leader of the No campaign was the former president of Colombia Álvaro Uribe. He accused the government of promoting the yes vote over the no vote, of restricting the No campaign’s press coverage, and, most serious of all, of allowing the FARC to become a legal political party, thus providing them with a clean slate if the deal went through.
Many people shared these concerns and found it appalling that their government would seemingly forget how much violence and despair the FARC has caused over the past decades. FARC members would have been able to avoid going to jail for crimes such as killing, kidnapping, and child recruitment thanks to the peace deal; the only thing they had to do was to confess. To illustrate how bad the No supporters think the deal is, it is as if Assad’s government in Syria would cut a deal with ISIS and allow them to be active in Syrian politics and simply forget and forgive all their atrocious crimes.
After the results, Timochenko publicly expressed that the FARC maintains their desire for peace and that they would continue using words instead of violence to negotiate with the government. Colombian president Santos said that he accepts the outcome and that peace is still a top priority of the government. He also made it clear that the current ceasefire with the FARC will remain in place. He will meet with all political parties on Monday to discuss what steps the government should take next in order to make the best of this No vote.